Building Modern Homes

About Building Modern Homes

BESRC_logouilding Modern Homes is a two year project (2015-2017) that explores the significant challenge which sustainable innovation poses for UK house builders. Funded by the ESRC (Project Reference: ES/M000249/1), this research is a collaboration between the University of Reading and Loughborough's Schools of Business and Economic and Civil and Building Engineering.

The research works in collaboration with Loughborough University.

Our Research

Focusing on the development of new products and processes at the project level and their diffusion across large multi-regional firms, the project examines how construction firms take advantage of project-level innovations, how they meet the challenges which progressive carbon reduction targets currently pose, how innovations travel across large, complex firms, how standards shape innovations and how do innovations feed into ongoing changes in standard practice. The research is primarily informed by the application of actor-network theory and neo-institutionalism to the study of key technical innovations developed at an experimental low carbon development.

The question of how specific technical innovations are being diffused and stabilised across volume house builders addresses some of the core challenges of building sustainable homes. While many scholars highlight the challenges of cross-project learning and the diffusion of innovations, little empirical or theoretical work has been done on the 'anchoring of innovations' at the firm-level. Similarly, little work has been done on the travel of innovations across projects within a large, multi-regional firm. This problem is especially pressing when one takes into account emerging carbon reduction targets and the largely organisational nature of the challenge. As a number of observers have noted, the sector knows how to build low-carbon buildings on experimental developments; what it does not know how to do is to incorporate that know-how into standard practice.

The focal case study research will draw upon the analysis of documents, relevant artefacts, in-depth interviews and observations. The analysis of these sources will allow the team to trace the associations and movement of people and objects across multiple sites.

Research Aims

The research aims (see below) are informed by the application of actor-network theory and neo-institutionalism to the study of key technical innovations.

  • to identify and explain the development of a number of key product and process innovations related to carbon reduction requirements;
  • to examine the impact of those innovations on firm-level practices (including supply chains, procurement, internal management systems, business models, policies and strategies);
  • to follow the introduction of those innovations into other housing projects and to document similarities and differences in project-level accommodation to those elements;
  • to use this analysis to theorise processes of innovation, diffusion and stabilisation/institutionalisation (in firm-level strategies, systems and practices) within large, project-based firms; and,
  • to contrast the findings produced by the deployment of neo-institutionalism and actor-network theory in the study of a single complex empirical case.

Our Partners

Constructing Excellence

Home Builders Federation (HBF)

NHBC foundation

Structural Timber Association

Zero Carbon Hub (ZCH)

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